Fight or Flight

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This time he was mad, really mad, and for good reason. I’d finally gotten him back for all those years of being a bully to me.

And even if I was only gonna live for a few minutes longer, I had to admit it really did feel good to finally get some payback against the meanest kid who ever lived on Flamingo Street.

My choices were simple. I could run and jump off Cliff Condos, knowing that no one in their right mind would follow because they’d also be plunging to certain death thirty feet below.

Or I could run in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, running in that direction meant I’d have to get past the person who’d been chasing me for the last ten minutes. I’d never be able to get past him before being grabbed and beaten like a drum. Being beaten like a drum by Down the Street Bully Brad would also be an impossible feat to survive.

Though I was only nine years old at the time, the fact that the outcome of either choice had me dying wasn’t lost.

Bully Brad was running down the path towards me, and I had only moments to decide which choice would give me the best chance of being less dead. I wasn’t the one who started the fight, but one way or another, I was gonna end it. Taking a deep breath, I started running as fast as I could.

The first Saturday morning in September was cool, and I had decided to ride my bike to Blink Moody’s 7/11 to get a Coke and a box of Crackerjacks. Unfortunately, I had to go right past Bully Brad’s house. I thought if I went fast enough, perhaps he would not have time to bother me. I was wrong.

He must’ve seen me streaking down the street because just before I zipped past his house, he threw a stick out in front of my bike. Throwing out sticks in front of bikes was one of his favorite things to do. Losing control, I toppled headfirst over the handlebars. As my bike hit the curb bending the front tire, my right knee and then my head hit the street.

For a moment everything went black, then slowly the black was dotted with what looked like white flies. Blood trickled down my face, and as I tried to get back to my feet, my right knee gave out causing me to fall and hit my head again. Bully Brad was laughing as he threw a couple of dirt clods at me before going back inside his house, leaving me bleeding in a crumpled mass in the middle of Flamingo.

Dragging my broken bike and limping back up Flamingo, two thoughts were on my mind. My head and knee really hurt, and no matter what it took, today was the day I was gonna fight back. By the time I limped down our driveway, I’d come up with the perfect plan.

Filling five balloons with water and a sixth one with shaving cream, I headed back down the street. Finally reaching Bully Brad’s house, I hid behind some bushes near his front porch, waiting for him to come out. Soon he walked out onto the porch, and I unleased such a rapid-fire water balloon attack, he had no time to respond. Each balloon hit its mark, and with the landing of the sixth one, the bully from Flamingo was drenched from head to foot with his face covered in shaving cream.

My plan was working out perfectly, until I turned to run/limp away. That’s when my right knee gave out, causing me to hit the ground again. Scrambling back to my feet, I knew if I could make it back to our house, I’d be safe … but no. My fall had given Bully Brad time to see me. He started to run.

Reaching the vacant lot next to Neighbor Thomas’s house, I knew there was no way to make it back home, but I had a backup plan. Taking the sharp right into the vacant lot, I limped toward the thirty-foot drop-off at Cliff Condos. My three brothers and I had been digging into the face of that cliff for the last three summers, throwing the dirt out behind us as we dug.

I knew the dirt piled up made the “impossible to survive” drop of thirty feet really only fifteen. Chances of surviving such a leap were far better than facing a wet, really mad, Down the Street Bully Brad. Besides, I knew he wouldn’t follow me … at least I hoped he wouldn’t.

Limping and running as fast as I could, I leapt off the cliff. As I landed in the soft dirt below, my knee popped as I heard the frustrated voice of Bully Brad grumble, “Just you wait. I’ll get you, Spitball.” Neither one of us knew it at the time, but he would have to wait years for his revenge.

My cliff jumping days are long behind me, and I no longer throw water balloons at bullies to even the score. Besides, I’ve found a better way — I use words.

Down the Street Bully Brad appears in my stories regularly — and he hasn’t thrown a single punch at me yet. Of course, he doesn’t know where I live. And that’s good because lately, I can’t run that fast anymore.

It has taken over fifty-five years, but this Friday, Bully Brad will finally get the ultimate revenge for that day out at Cliff Condos. I have an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon about a right knee replacement.

When the doctor asks me what the original cause of the injury was, I’ll answer truthfully, “A long, long time ago, on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo, there once was a water balloon fight — and a chase by a bully who lived down the street …”

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]